Cabinet ministers have agreed on a “need to take action” against Syria, following a suspected chemical weapon attack that claimed the lives of dozens of people in the Damascus suburb of Douma.
Half a world away in New York, Russia’s United Nations ambassador warned the priority in Syria was to avert US-led strikes that could lead to a risky confrontation between the world’s two preeminent nuclear powers.
On Wednesday, President Trump went some way towards reducing expectations of an imminent attack. “Get ready Russian Federation, because they will be coming, nice and new and ‘smart!’ You shouldn’t be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!”
He had claimed missiles were “coming” and would be “nice and new and smart”.
Israel has said it won’t let Iran entrench militarily in Syria, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took the occasion of Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day to warn Tehran not to test his country.
Russian Federation has threatened to respond firmly to any military action against the Syrian Government. “I refer you to the White House to characterise the president’s tweet”, a Pentagon spokesman said.
“Now we have to make some further decisions, so they will be made fairly soon”, added first-term commander-in-chief, who earlier appeared to equivocate on the timing of strikes.
At stake in Syria is the potential for confrontation, if not outright conflict, between the US and Russian Federation, former Cold War foes whose relations have deteriorated in recent years over Moscow’s intervention in Ukraine, its interference in the 2016 USA presidential election and, most recently, its support for Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Since the start of the aerial bombardment campaign, at least 1,600 civilians have been killed and more than 130,000 people displaced, mostly to other areas in the country, according to the UN.
What has Trump said about the attack?
French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday said France has proof that the Syrian government launched chlorine gas attacks and that France would not tolerate “regimes that think everything is permitted”. Following the meeting, May spoke to Donald Trump and the pair agreed that the United Kingdom and the USA would “keep working closely together on the worldwide response”, according to a statement from Downing Street.
It appears the British Parliament will not be consulted ahead of the United Kingdom action – which could potentially start within hours of Cabinet approval. A joint military operation, possibly with France rather than the U.S.in the lead, could send a message of worldwide unity about enforcing the prohibitions on chemical weapons.
Defence Secretary Jim Mattis warned such an attack carried the risk of spinning out of control, suggesting caution ahead of a decision on how to respond to an attack against civilians last weekend that USA officials are increasingly certain involved the use of banned chemical weapons.
Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Spartan Capital Securities in NY said the escalation of the situation in Syria “is impacting.it could escalate to greater military conflict”.